No matter what Houston Astros broadcaster Alan Ashby meant to say, he should have known better.
Ashby issued a conditional apology Wednesday, a day after he jokingly suggested that Yu Darvish losing a perfect game with two outs in the ninth inning should "force a guy to learn some of the language here in America." Probably, as in, "$#!%, I just lost a perfect game!"
Watch the broadcast here to get a better idea of the context.
Darvish was raised in Japan and, while teammates say his English is conversationally excellent (he tries to speak Spanish, too), he prefers to do interviews in Japanese with a translator. His understandable choice also can give an unfortunate impression to some that he doesn't care to learn English. And misconceptions like that can set off all sorts of ugly populist alarms.
Even if Ashby is ignorant of Darvish's linguistic agility, what he said was silly — and colleague Geoff Blum even said as much in the booth at the time. Here's a transcript of the relevant part of the broadcast, via the Four DVRs blog in the Houston Chronicle:
Blum: Man. Gosh, that has got to be a tough pill to swallow.
Ashby: That’ll force a guy to learn some of the language here in America.
Blum: Some of the more inappropriate language. I’m loving it. They probably learn that instantly coming over here. But that was a fantastic performance.
Of course Japanese ballplayers playing in North America know how to swear in English. Profanity (can be) one of the first thing anyone learning a new language picks up. Ichiro's famous (NSFW) "Two rats in a sock" quote is a good example of this.
The Astros must have heard people complaining about Ashby's joke, because they made him apologize. Here's his official statement, which reads like a monologue that hostages are encouraged to announce at gunpoint:
"I'd like to apologize if my comments last night were misinterpreted or construed as insensitive. I have the highest respect for Yu Darvish; he's a great player and his performance last night was outstanding. He showed a great deal of poise in the face of a difficult moment last night, which speaks to the strength of his character."
That's a new low for the "I apologize if I offended anyone" brand of apology, and it probably won't help Ashby with the crowd that will be mad at him no matter what. Regardless, Ashby is one of the more popular players in Astros history, and this is going to be no more than a dubious anecdote in his TV career. And there should be little doubt he means those platitudes about Darvish's character.
Doing live TV is tough, and coming up with entertaining and pertinent remarks, off-the-cuff, is tough. As anyone who hangs out on Twitter knows, it's easy to be offensive on the spot. Ashby should have said something like, "Is Yu swearing to himself in Japanese right now?" That would have been OK politically, funny enough, and wouldn't have painted Darvish as the ignorant foreigner.
And it should be mentioned: There have been far more offensive things said about foreign ballplayers than this. Heck, you should see the scroll of ignorant tweets that Public Shaming on Tumblr compiled about Darvish just from Tuesday night. That'll really give people something to complain about.